The Tree House Fire Pole Post
I’m posting this entry because I saw a need. Most of the time when I Google something I can find some information. SOMETHING. That was not the case when I tried to find out how to put a fire pole (sliding pole) next to the tree house I’m building for my kid. There was nothing. I found a link to a HomeTime show that said they had done it, but there was not any actual info on the site and no video, either. Anyway, without the vast resources of the www behind me, I had to figure it out the old fashioned way: trial and error. That and making a few phone calls.
It seemed simple enough. Get a pole and set it in concrete about a foot and a half from the house. What kind of metal should it be? Where do you get it? I emailed a fencing company and they politely blew me off. After much digging and a couple of phone calls I found a place in St. Louis that sells scrap metal called Shapiro’s Supply.
So one fine Saturday in early summer I made the trek to industrial north St. Louis county. I tried to describe what I wanted and the guy waved me vaguely towards a big stack of pipe around a shed (the place is huge). Here’s what I found on my field trip to Shapiro’s: there are pipes, tubes and conduits. I knew it should be about 2.5 – 3 inches on the outside diameter. (OD is the lingo for this). First I found some amazing steel pipe but it was really expensive. I didn’t need a stainless fire pole! After more unsupervised wandering, I found some promising metal. I waved over an employee and he squawked into his Nextel that it was 2.5 OD galvanized conduit. Ah ha! That’s what you need for a tree house fire pole. I had him cut it to 16 feet (2 in the ground and 14 up top). I tied it onto the family truckster and brought my find home.
The next step was setting it up. That was pretty straightforward. I hand dug a two foot hole with a post hole digger about 18 inches from the side of the tree house. It works fine but if I had to do it again I’d say 14 inches. The lean is a bit far for smaller kids. I mixed up a couple of bags or Quickrete in a wheelbarrow and poured it around the pole, using a piece of wood to “shuck” the concrete and get rid of air pockets. I plumbed it up with a level and left it alone. After a couple days of curing, we gave it a try. It was fine for lightweight kids, but I didn’t go down it; it was too wobbly. I realized it would have to be braced somehow. There probably are a lot of good ways to go about this but here’s what I came up with.
I used a joist hanger and a fence bracket (see photos) to hold a couple of 2x4s out from the house. I drilled holes in to hold 6 inch carriage bolts that would go around the pole and hold it solidly. (See photos). Why not two joist hangers? That’s what I tried first, but it didn’t work! The boards had to be close together and the joist hangers need more room than the fence brackets so I used one of each. Anyway, I slid the contraption up the pole, set the boards in their hangers and tightened the bolts. Eureka! It worked. I’ll never go down the ladder again.
Finally I put a little hat on the top of the pole to keep out the rain. I used the top of a cheap garden light for this purpose and attached it with a couple of zip ties. See photos below.